Sandalwood worth Rs 3 crore seized in Manipur

Imphal: Red sandalwood worth Rs 3 crore at the internation market was seized from the residential complex of a former MLA in Imphal West district, official sources said here today.

Acting on a tip-off, a team of Special Intelligence Unit (SIU) of Manipur led by inspector Ranjit Singh raided the house of former Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLA Salam Joy at Samurou Awang Leikai area yesterday and found the red sandalwoods at his courtyard, sources said.

They said Anand Prasad (32), a resident of Balia (Uttar Pradesh) and Shiva Bihari of Rotash district (Bihar) were arrested in this connection and a case was registered under CrPC section 102 (unclaimed property).

The police said the consignment was meant to be smuggled to China, Joy and his family members were not present at the time of the seizure.

Sources said the approximate cost of the expensive wood, found in three trucks, was calculated to be about Rs 3 crores as it was sold between Rs 1500 to Rs 2000 per kilogram at Myanmar border by Indian traders.

The police said the red sandalwood was smuggled from the jungles of Andhra Pradesh for allegedly smuggling to China where it was in high demand through border town of Moreh in Manipur and neighbouring Tamu town in Myanmar en route to Chinese border in upper Myanmar.

The main person involved in the smuggling of the expensive wood was identified as Md Arif Khan, a resident of Tamil Nadu, police said adding that this was the first time that Manipur polie intercepted such a large consignment of red sandalwood.

 Popularly known as `rakta chandan`, red sandalwood is found mostly in southern states of the country and is a lucrative trade for smugglers as it could fetch a high price from Chinese traders who are the main buyers.

Official sources said the wood is used for various purposes ranging from medicinal, carvings, cosmetics and for religious purposes.

They said the wood of the trunk (heartwood) is used in Chinese medicine for treatening digestive tract problems, fluid retention, coughs, blood purification, lowering of blood pressure and checking of sugar level for diabetic patients.

Idols of Buddha and other craft items were also made out of the wood, they said adding that sophisticated furnitures made of sandalwoods have been prized for thousands of years within the Chinese aristocracy.

Superintendent of police (Imphal West district) K Jayanta said the seized wood has been handed over to Manipur forest department for further investigation.